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BJ Penn‘s 15-minute ass-kicking at the hands of Rory MacDonald at UFC on FOX 5 accomplished several things: Most importantly, it gave MacDonald a grand stage to introduce himself as one of the rulers of the welterweight division. (Established veterans and up-and-coming prospects alike are now calling him out to get attention for themselves.) The fight gave Penn the new record for total time spent in the Octagon — five hours, three minutes, and 51 seconds, surpassing Tito Ortiz — and helped sustain Penn’s own personal statistic of never being knocked down in the Octagon, a piece of trivia made even more astounding by the damage he was taking on Saturday.
The fight also meant that Penn’s six UFC appearances from 2010-2012 have resulted in only a single victory, his 21-second demolition of Matt Hughes at UFC 123. His last two fights (against MacDonald and Nick Diaz) were utterly lopsided, and before that, he was lucky to escape with a draw against Jon Fitch. As a welterweight, BJ Penn is no longer competitive with the best in the world. And like many legendary fighters, he’ll probably be the last person to realize it.
Will Penn take this latest whooping as a sign that it’s time to hang up the gloves for good? Here’s Dana White’s take on the subject, following the event:
“He didn’t say it tonight but I think BJ is probably going to retire. I wouldn’t mind seeing that…B.J. is a warrior. Talk about a guy who doesn’t give up, doesn’t quit, and just keeps coming. I have so much respect for B.J. I always have, even through the good times and bad times. I‘d like to see him retire. He’s got plenty of money, he’s got a great family that loves him, he’s got babies, a beautiful wife…He has nothing left to prove to anybody, and everybody loves him. You heard the arena here tonight. I’d like to see B.J. retire.”
Keep in mind that Penn basically was retired until a simple call-out by Rory MacDonald changed his mind. If that’s all it takes to get Penn fired up, it’s possible that we haven’t seen the last of him. But I’m with Dana on this one — Penn can only hurt his legacy by returning to the cage against another top welterweight, and should step away from the sport before he crosses the line from beloved superstar to cautionary tale. (Just because a guy isn’t losing consciousness in every fight a la Chuck Liddell, doesn’t mean he’s safe from significant brain trauma. Penn’s freakish ability to remain upright and awake during his fights might actually be doing untold long-term damage to his health.)
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